Actress Christine Hakim said the perspective on marriage and education in the upcoming biopic “Kartini” by Hanung Bramantyo has changed her views on the national heroine.
Starring Dian Sastrowardoyo as Kartini, the film focuses on the lives of Javanese nobility under the colonial rule and patriarchal culture of the late 19th century Central Java. As the daughters of Jepara regent, Kartini and her sisters — Soelastri (Adinia Wirasti), Roekmini (Acha Septriasa) and Kardinah (Ayushita Nugraha) — are excluded from the life outside of their residence. The custom, known as pingitan in Javanese, requires upper-class girls to learn how to take care of their bodies, be good wives and earn the title of Raden Ayu.
Kartini witnessed her father Ario Sosroningrat (Deddy Sutomo) marrying for the second time with Moeryam (Djenar Maesa Ayu), a woman from an aristocratic family. The marriage earned him the regent’s office.
Christine plays Ario’s first wife, Kartini’s mother Ngasirah, who having no blue blood is forced to into a less respected position in the family.
Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday (05/04), Christine said the biopic made her aware of a different side of the heroine’s struggle and she no longer saw Kartini’s marriage as a defeat.
Kartini, who in Indonesia is recognized as a pioneer in women’s empowerment, decided to get married instead of pursuing her studies in the Netherlands, which through the mainstream feminist lenses has by some been considered as contradictory to her advocacy.
“In the end, to be able to choose is not a defeat. She was very young and she had a very difficult decision in front of her. She decided to stay in her motherland. She wanted to be progressive without leaving her own people and the culture that raised her,” Christine said.
She added that many young Indonesians who study at prestigious universities abroad often refuse to return.
“Kartini never forgot about her own dreams [running a school]. Now, more than 100 years after her death, I think the situation she had to cope with is still relevant, as I see many young people leaving the country never to return. I think this movie adds an important note to our understanding of history,” she said.
In the film, Ngasirah encourages Kartini to be brave and accept the proposal of Rembang regent Joyodiningrat (Dwi Sasono), who already has three wives. Ngasirah believes the marriage will be a chance for her daughter to move up the social ladder.
Kartini married Joyodiningrat upon a condition that she would be allowed to run a school for Javanese women. She died in 1904, at the age of 25.
“Kartini” will enter Indonesian cinemas on April 19.